Augustin on John 49
(Jn 11,55-57 Jn 12.
1). Yesterday’s lesson in the holy Gospel, on which we spake as the Lord enabled us, is followed by to-day’s, on which we purpose to speak in the same spirit of dependence. Some passages in the Scriptures are so clear as to require a hearer rather than an expounder: over such we need not tarry, that we may have sufficient time for those which necessarily demand a fuller consideration.
2. “And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand.” The Jews wished to have that feast-day crimsoned with the blood of the Lord. On it that Lamb was slain, who hath consecrated it as a feast-day for us by His own blood. There was a plot among the Jews about slaying Jesus: and He, who had come from heaven to suffer, wished to draw near to the place of His suffering, because the hour of His passion was at hand. Therefore “many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to sanctify themselves.” The Jews did so in accordance with the command of the Lord delivered by holy Moses in the law, that on the feast-day of the passover all should assemble from every part of the land, and be sanctified in celebrating the services of the day. But that celebration was a shadow of the future. And why a shadow? It was a prophetic intimation of the Christ to come, a prophecy of Him who on that day was to suffer for us: that so the shadow might vanish and the light come; that the sign might pass away, and the truth be retained. The Jews therefore held the passover in a shadowy form, but we in the light. For what need was there that the Lord should command them to slay a sheep on the very day of the feast, save only because of Him it was prophesied, “He is led as a sheep to the slaughter”?1 . The door-posts of the Jews were sealed with the blood of the slaughtered animal: with the blood of Christ are our foreheads sealed. And that sealing-for it had a real significance-was said to keep away the destroyer from the houses that were sealed:2 Christ’s seal drives away the destroyer from us, if we receive the Saviour into our hearts. But why have I said this? Because many have their door-posts sealed while there is no inmate abiding within: they find it easy to have Christ’s seal in the forehead, and yet at heart refuse admission to His word. Therefore, brethren, I have said, and I repeat it, Christ’s seal driveth from us the destroyer, if only we have Christ as an inmate of our hearts. I have stated these things, lest any one’s thoughts should be turning on the meaning of these festivals of the Jews. The Lord therefore came as it were to the victim’s place, that the true passover might be ours, when we celebrated His passion as the real offering of the lamb.
3. “Then sought they for Jesus:” but with evil intent. For happy are they who seek for Jesus in a way that is good. They sought for Him, with the intent that neither they nor we should have Him more: but in departing from them, He has been received by us. Some who seek Him are blamed, others who do so are commended; for it is the spirit animating the seeker that finds either praise or condemnation. Thence you have it also in the psalms, “Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul:”3 such are those who sought with evil purpose. But in another place he says, “Refuge hath failed me, and there is no one that seeketh after my soul.”4 Those who sought, and those who did not, are blamed alike. Therefore let us seek for Christ, that He may be ours, that we may keep Him, and not that we may slay Him; for these men sought to get hold of Him, but only for the purpose of speedily getting quit of Him for ever. “Therefore they sought for Him, and spake among themselves: What think ye, that He will not come to the feast?”
4. “Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where He were, he should show it, that they might take Him.” Let us for our parts show the Jews where Christ is. Would, indeed, that all the seed of those who had given commandment to have it shown them where Christ was, would but hear and apprehend! Let them come to the church and hear where Christ is, and take Him. They may hear it from us, they may hear it from the gospel. He was slain by their forefathers, He was buried, He rose again, He was recognized by the disciples, He ascended before their eyes into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of the Father; and He who was judged is yet to come as Judge of all: let them hear, and hold fast. Do they reply, How shall I take hold of the absent? how shall I stretch up my hand into heaven, and take hold of one who is sitting there? Stretch up thy faith, and thou hast got hold. Thy forefathers held by the flesh, hold thou with the heart; for the absent Christ is also present. But for His presence, we ourselves were unable to hold Him. But since His word is true, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world,”5 He is away, and He is here; He has returned, and will not forsake us; for He has carried His body into heaven, but His majesty He has never withdrawn from the world.
5. “Then Jesus, six days before the passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom Jesus raised from the dead. And there they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that reclined at the table.” To prevent people thinking that the man had become a phantom, because he had risen from the dead, he was one of those who reclined at table; he was living, speaking, feasting: the truth was made manifest, and the unbelief of the Jews was confounded. The Lord, therefore, reclined at table with Lazarus and the others; and they were waited on by Martha, one of the sisters of Lazarus.
6. But “Mary,” the other sister of Lazarus, “took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” Such was the incident, let us look into the mystery it imported. Whatever soul of you wishes to be truly faithful, anoint like Mary the feet of the Lord with precious ointment. That ointment was righteousness, and therefore it was [exactly] a pound weight: but it was ointment of pure nard [nardi pistici], very precious. From his calling it “pistici,”6 we ought to infer that there was some locality from which it derived its preciousness: but this does not exhaust its meaning, and it harmonizes well with a sacramental symbol. The root of the word [“pure”] in the Greek is by us called “faith.” Thou weft seeking to work righteousness: the just shall live by faith.7 Anoint the feet of Jesus: follow by a good life the Lord’s footsteps. Wipe them l with thy hair: what thou hast of superfluity, give to the poor, and thou hast wiped the feet of the Lord; for the hair seems to be the superfluous part of the body. Thou hast something to spare of thy abundance: it is superfluous to thee, but necessary for the feet of the Lord. Perhaps on this earth the Lord’s feet are still in need. For of whom but of His members is He yet to say in the end, “Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of mine, ye did it unto me”?8 Ye spent what was superfluous for yourselves, but ye have done what was grateful to my feet.
7. “And the house was filled with the odor.” The world is filled with the fame of a good character: for a good character is as a pleasant odor. Those who live wickedly and bear the name of Christians, do injury to Christ: of such it is said, that through them “the name of the Lord is blasphemed.”9 If through such God’s name is blasphemed, through the good the name of the Lord is honored. Listen to the apostle, when he says, “We are a sweet savor of Christ in every place.” As it is said also in the Song of Songs, “Thy name is as ointment poured forth.”10 Attend again to the apostle: “We are a sweet savor,” he says, “of Christ in every place, both in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the savor of life unto life, to the other the savor of death unto death: and who is sufficient for I these things?”11 The lesson of the holy Gospel before us affords us the opportunity of so speaking of that savor, that we on our part may give worthy utterance, and you diligent heed, to what is thus expressed by the apostle himself, “And who is sufficient for these things?” But have we any reason to infer from these words that we are qualified to attempt speaking on such a subject, or you to hear? We, indeed, are not so; but He is sufficient, who is pleased to speak by us what it may be for your profit to hear. The apostle, you see, is, as he calls himself, “a sweet savor:” but that sweet savor is “to some the savor of life unto life, and to others the savor of death unto death;” and yet all the while “a sweet savor” in itself. For he does not say, does he, To some we are a sweet savor unto life, to others an evil savor unto death? He called himself a sweet savor, not an evil; and represented himself as the same sweet savor, to some unto life, to others unto death. Happy they who find life in this sweet savor! but what misery can be greater than theirs, to whom the sweet savor is the messenger of death?
8. And who is it, says some one, that is thus slain by the sweet savor? It is to this the apostle alludes in the words, “And who is sufficient for these things?” In what wonderful ways God brings it about that the good savor is fraught both with life to the good, and with death to the wicked; how it is so, so far as the Lord is pleased to inspire my thoughts (for it may still conceal a deeper meaning beyond my power to penetrate),-yet so far, I say, as my power of penetration has reached, you ought not to have the information withheld. The integrity of the Apostle Paul’s life and conduct, his preaching of righteousness in word and exhibition of it in works, his wondrous power as a teacher and his fidelity as a steward, were everywhere noised abroad: he was loved by some, and envied by others. For he himself tells us in a certain place of some, that they preached Christ not sincerely, but of envy; “thinking,” he says, “to add affliction to my bonds.” But what does he add? “Whether in pretence or in truth, let Christ be preached.”12 They preach who love me, they preach who hate me; in that good savor the former live, in it the others die: and yet by the preaching of both let the name of Christ be proclaimed, with this excellent savor let the world be filled. Hast thou been loving one whose conduct evidenced his goodness then in this good savor thou hast lived. Hast thou been envying such a one then in this same savor thou hast died. But hast thou, pray, in thus choosing to die, converted this savor into an evil one? Turn from thine envious feelings, and the good savor will cease to slay thee.
9. And now, lastly, listen to what we have here, how this ointment was to some a sweet savor unto life, and to others a sweet savor unto death. When the pious Mary had rendered this grateful service to the Lord, straightway one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was yet to betray Him, said, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” Alas for thee, wretched man! the sweet savor hath slain thee. For the cause that led him so to speak is disclosed by the holy evangelist. But we, too, might have supposed, had not the real state of his mind been revealed in the Gospel, that the care of the poor might have induced him so to speak. Not so. What then? Hearkeu to a true witness: “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the money bag, and bare13 what was put therein.” Did he bear it about, or bear it away? For the common service he bore it, as a thief he bore it away.
10. Look now, and learn that this Judas did not become perverted only at the time when he yielded to the bribery of the Jews and betrayed his Lord. For not a few, inattentive to the Gospel, suppose that Judas only perished when he accepted money from the Jews to betray the Lord. It was not then that he perished, but he was already a thief, and a reprobate, when following the Lord; for it was with his body and not with his heart that he followed. He made up the apostolic number of twelve, but had no part in the apostolic blessedness: he had been made the twelfth in semblance, and on his departure, and the succession of another, the apostolic reality was completed, and the entireness of the number conserved.14 What lesson then, my brethren, did our Lord Jesus Christ wish to impress on His Church, when it pleased Him to have one castaway among the twelve, but this, that we should bear with the wicked, and refrain from dividing the body of Christ? Here you have Judas among the saints,-that Judas, mark you! who was a thief, yea-do not overlook it-not a thief of any ordinary type, but a thief and a sacrilegist: a robber of money bags, but of such as were the Lord’s; of money bags, but of such as were sacred. If there is a distinction made in the public courts between such crimes as ordinary theft and peculation,-for by peculation we mean the theft of public property; and private theft is not visited with the same sentence as public,-how much more severe ought to be the sentence on the sacrilegious thief, who has dared to steal, not from places of any ordinary kind, but to steal from the Church? He who thieves from the Church, stands side by side with the castaway Judas. Such was this man Judas, and yet he went in and out with the eleven holy disciples. With them he came even to the table of the Lord: he was permitted to have intercourse with them, but he could not contaminate them. Of one bread did both Peter and Judas partake, and yet what communion had the believer with the infidel? Peter’s partaking was unto life, but that of Judas unto death. For that good bread was just like the sweet savor. For as the sweet savor, so also does the good bread give life to the good, and bring death to the wicked. “For he that eateth unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself:”15 “judgment to himself,” not to thee. If, then, it is judgment to himself, not to thee, bear as one that is good with him that is evil, that thou mayest attain unto the rewards of the good, and be not hurled into the punishment of the wicked.
11. Lay to heart our Lord’s example while living with man upon earth. Why had He a money bag, who was ministered unto by angels, save to intimate that His Church was destined thereafter to have her repository for money? Why gave He admission to a thief, save to teach His Church patiently to bear with thieves? But he who had formed the habit of abstracting money from the bag, did not hesitate for money received to sell the Lord Himself. But let us see what answer our Lord gave to such words. See, brethren: He does not say to him, Thou speakest so on account of thy thievishness. He knew him to be a thief, yet did not betray him, but rather endured him, and showed us an example of patience in tolerating the wicked in the Church. “Then said Jesus to him: Let her keep it against the day of my burial.”16 He announced that His own death was at hand.
12. But what follows? “For the poor ye have always with you, but me ye will not have always.” We can certainly understand, “thepoor ye have always;” what He has thus said is true. When were the poor wanting in the Church? “But me ye will not have always;” what does He mean by this? How are we to understand, “Me ye will not have always”? Don’t be alarmed: it was addressed to Judas. Why, then, did He not say, thou wilt have, but, ye will have? Because Judas is not here a unit. One wicked man represents the whole body of the wicked; in the same way as Peter, the whole body of the good, yea, the body of the Church, but in respect to the good. For if in Peter’s case there were no sacramental symbol of the Church, the Lord would not have said to him, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.”17 If this was said only to Peter, it gives no ground of action to the Church. But if such is the case also in the Church, that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven,-for when the Church excommunicates, the excommunicated person is bound in heaven; when one is reconciled by the Church, the person so reconciled is loosed in heaven:-if such, then, is the case in the Church, Peter, in receiving the keys, represented the holy Church. If, then, in the person of Peter were represented the good in the Church, and in Judas’ person were represented the bad in the Church, then to these latter was it said, “But me ye will not have always.” But what means the “not always;” and what, the “always”? If thou art good, if thou belongest to the body represented by Peter, thou hast Christ both now and hereafter: now by faith, by sign, by the sacrament of baptism, by the bread and wine of the altar. Thou hast Christ now, but thou wilt have Him always; for when thou hast gone hence, thou wilt come to Him who saidto the robber, “To-day shall thou be with me in paradise.”18 But if thou livest wickedly, thou mayest seem to have Christ now, because thou enterest the Church, signest thyself with the sign of Christ, art baptized with the baptism of Christ, minglest thyself with the members of Christ, and approachest His altar: now thou hast Christ, but by living wickedly thou wilt not have Him always.
13. It may be also understood in this way: “The poor ye will have always with you, but me ye will not have always.” The good may take it also as addressed to themselves, but not so as to be any source of anxiety; for He was speaking of His bodily presence. For in respect of His majesty, His providence, His ineffable and invisible grace, His own words are fulfilled, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.”19 But in respect of the flesh He assumed as the Word, in respect of that which He was as the son of the Virgin, of that wherein He was seized by the Jews, nailed to the tree, let down from the cross, enveloped in a shroud, laid in the sepulchre, and manifested in His resurrection, “ye will not have Him always.” And why? Because in respect of His bodily presence He associated for forty days with His disciples, and then, having brought them forth for the purpose of beholding and not of following Him, He ascended into heaven and is no longer here. He is there, indeed, sitting at the right hand of the Father; and He is here also, having never withdrawn the presence of His glory. In other words, in respect of His divine presence we always have Christ; in respect of His presence in the flesh it was rightly said to the disciples, “Me ye will not have always.” In this respect the Church enjoyed His presence only for a few days: now it possesses Him by faith, without seeing Him with the eyes. In whichever way, then, it was said, “But me ye will not have always,” it can no longer, I suppose, after this twofold solution, remain as a subject of doubt.
14. Let us listen to the other few points that remain: “Much people of the Jews therefore knew that He was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.” They were drawn by curiosity, not by charity: they came and saw. Hearken to the strange scheming of human vanity. Having seen Lazarus as one raised from the dead,-for the fame of such a miracle of the Lord’s had been accompanied everywhere with so much evidence of its genuineness, and it had been so openly performed, that they could neither conceal nor deny what had been done,-only think of the plan they hit upon. “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.” O foolish consultation and blinded rage! Could not Christ the Lord, who was able to raise the dead, raise also the slain? When you were preparing a violent death for Lazarus, were you at the same time denuding the Lord of His power? If you think a dead man one thing, a murdered man another, look you only to this, that the Lord made both, and raised Lazarus to life when dead, and Himself when slain.
1 (Is 53,7,
2 (Ex 12,22-23.
3 (Ps 40,14,
4 (Ps 142,4, marg).
5 (Mt 28,20,
6 The full expression is nardi pistici pretiosi: Gr. “navrodou pistikh`" polutivmou:”pistikov" from pisti, trustworthy, hence, genuine, pure;-though Aug. seems to indicate that it may also have had a geographical reference.-Tr.
7 (Rm 1,17,
8 (Mt 25,40,
9 (Rm 2,24,
10 Ct 1,3.
11 (2Co 2,14-16).
12 1 Ph 1,16 Ph 1,18.
13 “ejbavstazen,” as used by John, may signify here, carried, bore, in a good sense; or carried off as a thief: for the latter sense, see chap. 20,15.-Tr.
14 (Ac 1,26,
15 (1Co 11,29).
16 Augustin’s words, sinite illam, ut in diem sepulturae meae servet illud, as rendered above, differ considerably from those of our English version, and are more difficult to understand; but they agree with by far the larger number of Greek Mss., which read, Afesaujth;n i)na eijsth;n hJmevran tou` ejntafiasmou` mou thrhvsh aujtov. Our English version, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this,” is taken from Mss. which omit i)na, and have tethrhken instead of thrhvsh.-Tr.
17 (Mt 16,19,
18 (Lc 23,43).
19 (Mt 28,20).
1). After our Lord’s raising of one to life, who had been four days dead, to the utter amazement of the Jews, some of whom believed on seeing it, and others perished in their envy, because of that sweet savor which is unto life to some, and to others unto death;1 after He had sat down to meat with Lazarus-the one who had been dead and raised to life-reclining also at table, and after the pouring on His feet of the ointment which had filled the house with its odor; and after the Jews also had shown their own spiritual abandonment in conceiving the useless cruelty and the monstrously foolish and insane guilt of slaying Lazarus;-of all which we have spoken as we could, by the grace of the Lord, in previous discourses: let your Charity now notice how abundant before our Lord’s passion was the fruit that appeared of His preaching, and how large was the flock of lost sheep of the house of Israel which had heard the Shepherd’s voice.
2. For the Gospel, the reading of which yon have just been listening to, says: “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord as the King of Israel.” The branches of palm trees are laudatory emblems, significant of victory, because the Lord was about to overcome death by dying, and by the trophy of His cross to triumph over the devil, the prince of death. The exclamation used by the worshipping2 people is Hosanna, indicating, as some who know the Hebrew language affirm, rather a state of mind than having any positive significance;3 just as in our own tongue4 we have what are called interjections, as when in our grief we say, Alas! or in our joy, Ha! or in our admiration, O how fine! where O! expresses only the feeling of the admirer. Of the same class must we believe this word to be, as it has failed to find an interpretation both in Greek and Latin, like that other, “Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca.”5 For this also is allowed to be an interjection, expressive of angry feelings.
3. But when it is said, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, [as] the King of Israel,” by “in the name of the Lord” we are rather to understand “in the name of God the Father,” although it might also be understood as in His own name, inasmuch as He is also Himself the Lord. As we find Scripture also saying in another place, “The Lord rained [upon Sodom fire] from the Lord.”6 But His own words are a better guide to our understanding, when He saith, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: another will come in his own name, and him ye will receive.”7 For the true teacher of humility is Christ, who humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.8 But He does not lose His divinity in teaching us humility; in the one He is the Father’s equal, in the other He is assimilated to us. By that which made Him the equal of the Father, He called us into existence; and by that in which He is like unto us, He redeemed us from ruin.
4. These, then, were the words of praise addressed to Jesus by the multitude, “Hosanna: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel.” What a cross of mental suffering must the Jewish rulers have endured when they heard so great a multitude proclaiming Christ as their King! But what honor was it to the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men? For Christ’s kingship over Israel was not for the purpose of exacting tribute, of putting swords into His soldiers’ hands, of subduing His enemies by open warfare; but He was King of Israel in exercising kingly authority over their inward natures, in consulting for their eternal interests, in bringing into His heavenly kingdom those whose faith, and hope, and love were centred in Himself. Accordingly, for the Son of God, the Father’s equal, the Word by whom all things were made, in His good pleasure to be King of Israel, was an act of condescension and not of promotion; a token of compassion, and not any increase of power. For He who was called on earth the King of the Jews, is in the heavens the Lord of angels.
5. “And Jesus, when He had found a young ass, sat thereon.” Here the account is briefly given: for how it all happened may be found at full length in the other evangelists.9 But there is appended to the circumstance itself a testimony from the prophets, to make it evident that He in whom was fulfilled all they read in Scripture, was entirely misunderstood by the evil-minded rulers of the Jews. Jesus, then, “found a young ass, and sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.” Among that people, then, was the daughter of Zion to be found; for Zion is the same as Jerusalem. Among that very people, I say, reprobate and blind as they were, was the daughter of Zion, to whom it was said, “Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.” This daughter of Zion, who was thus divinely addressed, was amongst those sheep that were hearing the Shepherd’s voice, and in that multitude which was celebrating the Lord’s coming with such religious zeal, and accompanying Him in such warlike array. To her was it said, “Fear not:” acknowledge Him whom thou art now extolling, and give not way to fear when He comes to suffering; for by the shedding of His blood is thy guilt to be blotted out, and thy life restored. But by the ass’s colt, on which no man had ever sat (for so it is found recorded in the other evangelists), we are to understand the Gentile nations which had not received the law of the Lord; by the ass, on the other hand (for both animals were brought to the Lord), that people of His which came of the nation of Israel, and was already so far subdued as to recognize its Master’s crib.
6. “These things understood not His disciples at the first; but when Jesus was glorified,” that is, when He had manifested the power of His resurrection, “then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and they had done these things unto Him,” that is, they did nothing else but what had been written concerning Him. In short, mentally comparing with the contents of Scripture what was accomplished both prior tO and in the course of our Lord’s passion, they found this also therein, that it was in accordance with the utterance of the prophets that He sat on an ass’s colt.
7. “The people, therefore, that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the crowd also met Him, for that they heard that He had done this miracle. The Pharisees, therefore, said among themselves: Perceive ye that we prevail nothing? Behold, the whole world is gone after Him.” Mob set mob in motion.10 “But why art thou, blinded mob that thou art, filled with envy because the world has gone after its Maker?”
8. “And there were certain Gentiles among them that had come up to worship at the feast: the same came therefore to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.” Let us hearken to the Lord’s reply. See how the Jews wish to kill Him, the Gentiles to see Him; and yet those, too, were of the Jews who cried, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel.” Here, then, were they of the circumcision and they of the uncircumcision, like two house walls running from different directions and meeting together with the kiss of peace, in the one faith of Christ. Let us listen, then, to the voice of the Cornerstone: “And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.” Perhaps some one supposes here that He spake of Himself as glorified, because the Gentiles wished to see Him. Such is not the case. But He saw the Gentiles themselves in all nations coming to the faith after His own passion and resurrection, because, as the apostle says, “Blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles should be come in.”11 Taking occasion, therefore, from those Gentiles who desired to see Him, He announces the future fullness of the Gentile nations, and promises the near approach of the hour when He should be glorified Himself, and when, on its consummation in heaven, the Gentile nations should be brought to the faith. To this it is that the prediction pointed, “Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Thy glory above all the earth.”12 Such is the fullness of the Gentiles, of which the apostle saith, “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, till the fullness of the Gentiles come in.”
9. But the height of His glorification had to be preceded by the depth of His passion. Accordingly, He went on to add, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” But He spake of Himself. He Himself was the grain that had to die, and be multiplied; to suffer death through the unbelief of the Jews, and to be multiplied in the faith of many nations.
10. And now, by way of exhortation to follow in the path of His own passion, He adds, “He that loveth his life shall lose it,” which may be understood in two ways: “He that loveth shall lose,” that is, If thou lovest, be ready to lose; if thou wouldst possess life in Christ, be not afraid of death for Christ. Or otherwise, “He that loveth his life shall lose it.” Do not love for fear of losing; love it not here, lest thou lose it in eternity. But what I have said last seems better to correspond with the meaning of the Gospel, for there follow the words, “And he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” So that when it is said in the previous clause, “He that loveth,” there is to be understood in this world, he it is that shall lose it. “But he that hateth,” that is, in this world, is he that shall keep it unto life eternal. Surely a profound and strange declaration as to the measure of a man’s love for his own life that leads to its destruction, and of his hatred to it that secures its preservation! If in a sinful way thou lovest it, then dost thou really hate it; if in a way accordant with what is good thou hast hated it, then hast thou really loved it. Happy they who have so hated their life while keeping it, that their love shall not cause them to lose it. But beware of harboring the notion that thou mayest court self-destruction by any such understanding of thy duty to hate thy life in this world. For on such grounds it is that certain wrong-minded and perverted people, who, with regard to themselves, are murderers of a specially cruel and impious character, commit themselves to the flames, suffocate themselves in water, dash themselves against a precipice, and perish. This was no teaching of Christ’s, who, on the other hand, met the devil’s suggestion of a precipice with the answer, “Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”13 To Peter also He said, signifying by what death he should glorify God, “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not;”14 -where He made it sufficiently plain that it is not by himself but by another that one must be slain who follows in the footsteps of Christ. And so, when one’s case has reached the crisis that this condition is placed before him, either that he must act contrary to the divine commandment or quit this life, and that a man is compelled to choose one or other of the two by the persecutor who is threatening him with death, in such circumstances let him prefer dying in the love of God to living under His anger, in such circumstances let him hate his life in this world that he may keep it unto life eternal.
11. “If any man serve me, let him follow me.” What is that, “let him follow me,” but just, let him imitate me? “Because Christ suffered for us,” says the Apostle Peter, “leaving us an example that we should follow His steps.”15 Here you have the meaning of the words, “If any man serve me, let him follow me.” But with what result? what wages? what reward? “And where I am,” He says, “there shall also my servant be.” Let Him be freely loved, that so the reward of the service done Him may be to be with Him. For where will one be well apart from Him, or when will one come to feel himself in an evil case in company with Him? Hear it still more plainly: “If any man serve me, him will my Father honor.” And what will be the honor but to be with His Son? For of what He said before, “Where I am, there shall also my servant be,” we may understand Him as giving the explanation, when He says here, “him will my Father honor.” For what greater honor can await an adopted son than to be with the Only-begotten; not, indeed, as raised to the level of His Godhead, but made a partaker of His eternity?
12. But it becomes us rather to inquire what is to be understood by this serving of Christ to which there is attached so great a reward. For if we have taken up the idea that the serving of Christ is the preparation of what is needful for the body, or the cooking and serving up of food, or the mixing of drink and handing the cup to one at the supper table; this, indeed, was done to Him by those who had the privilege of His bodily presence, as in the case of Martha and Mary, when Lazarus also was one of those who sat at the table. But in that sort of way Christ was served also by the reprobate Judas; for it was he also who had the money bag; and although he had the exceeding wickedness to steal of its contents, yet it was he also who provided what was needful for the meal.16 And so also, when our Lord said to him, “What thou doest, do quickly,” there were some who thought that He only gave him orders to make some needful preparations for the feast-day, or to give something to the poor.17 In no sense, therefore, was it of this class of servants that the Lord said, “Where I am, there shall also my servant be,” and “If any man serve me, him will my Father honor;” for we see that Judas, who served in this way, became an object of reprobation rather than of honor. Why, then, go elsewhere to find out what this serving of Christ implies, and not rather see its disclosure in the words themselves? for when He said, “If any man serve me, let him follow me,” He wished it to be understood just as if He had said, If any man doth not follow me, he serveth me not. And those, therefore, are the servants of Jesus Christ, who seek not their own things, but the things that are Jesus Christ’s.18 For “let him follow me” is just this: Let him walk in my ways, and not in his own; as it is written elsewhere, “He that saith he abideth in Christ, ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.”19 For he ought, if supplying food to the hungry, to do it in the way of mercy and not of boasting, seeking therein nothing else but the doing of good, and not letting his left hand know what his right hand doeth;20 in other words, that all thought of self-seeking should be utterly estranged from a work of charity. He that serveth in this way serveth Christ, and will have it rightly said to him, “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of those who are mine, ye did it unto me.”21 And thus doing not only those acts of mercy that pertain to the body, but every good work, for the sake of Christ (for then will all be good, because “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth ”22 ), he is Christ’s servant even to that work of special love, which is to lay down his life for the brethren, for that were to lay it down also for Christ. For this also will He say hereafter in behalf of His members: Inasmuch as ye did it for these, ye have done it for me. And certainly it was in reference to such a work that He was also pleased to make and to style Himself a servant, when He says, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto [served], but to minister [serve], and to lay down His life for many.”23 Every one, therefore, is the servant of Christ in the same way as Christ also is a servant. And he that serveth Christ in this way will be honored by His Father with the signal honor of being with His Son, and having nothing wanting to his happiness for ever.
13. Accordingly, brethren, when you hear the Lord saying, “Where I am, there shall also my servant be,” do not think merely of good bishops and clergymen. But be yourselves also in your own way serving Christ, by good lives, by giving alms, by preaching His name and doctrine as you can; and every father of a family also, be acknowledging in this name the affection he owes as a parent to his family. For Christ’s sake, and for the sake of life eternal, let him be warning, and teaching, and exhorting, and correcting all his household; let him show kindliness, and exercise discipline; and so in his own house he will be filling an ecclesiastical and kind of episcopal office, and serving Christ, that he may be with Him for ever. For even that noblest service of suffering has been rendered by many of your class; for many who were neither bishops nor clergy, but young men and virgins, those advanced in years with those who were not, many married persons both male and female, many fathers and mothers of families, have served Christ even to the laying down of their lives in martyrdom for His sake, and have been honored by the Father in receiving crowns of exceeding glory.
1 (2Co 2,15,
2 Obsecrantis, literally suppliant, which is scarcely suitable to the context.
3 The “some” here referred to by Augustin could scarcely have had a very extensive knowledge of the Hebrew language, as the word Hosanna, though left untranslated, as a well-known exclamation of the Jews in their religious services, is part of the same quotation from Psalm 118,(see (vers. 25, 26) with the words that follow in the text. The sacred writers gave the nearest equivalent in Greek letters (wsannav, Hosanna) of the Hebrew aK hxyViwh
4 In text, in lingua latina.
5 Raca (Syriac air;d;. Chaldee air;yde, Hebrew lyde, empty) was an insulting epithet of common use from an early period among the Babylonians, and in our Lord’s day among the inhabitants of Syria and Palestine. It exactly answers to our idiot, or numskull, and is of frequent occurrence afterwards in the same sense in rabbinical writings.-Tr).
6 (Gn 19,24,
7 Chap. 5,43.
8 (Ph 2,8,
9 (Mt 21,1-16 Mc 11,1-11 Lc 19,29-48.
10 Turba turbavit turbam).
11 (Rm 11,25,
12 (Ps 108,5,
13 (Mt 4,7,
14 Chap. 21,18, 19).
15 (1P 2,21,
16 Chap. 12,2-6. There is no ground in these verses for Augustin’s notion that the expense of that supper was defrayed out of the funds in Judas’ keeping. The whole account leaves the impression that it was provided by Lazarus and his sisters, although strictly speaking, ejpoivhsan (ver. 2) leaves it undetermined.-Tr.
17 Chap. 13,27, 29.
18 (Ph 2,21).
19 (1Jn 2,6).
20 (Mt 6,3,
21 (Mt 25,40).
22 (Rm 10,4).
23 (Mt 20,28,
Augustin on John 49